The sound of clinking glass inside a warmly lit tent, the smell of roasted nuts wafting through the air, and the sight of brightly colored Dirndls and chocolate brown, leather Lederhosen means it’s Oktoberfest in Munich! The three weeks at the end of September and beginning of October are one of the largest celebrations in the world and is the biggest beer festival ever. Whether you’ve attended before or are heading to the festival grounds for the first time, here are 45 tips to make the most of Oktoberfest in Munich.
45 Essential Oktoberfest Tips
- You must wear the traditional clothes at Oktoberfest. Women wear Dirndls and men Lederhosen. To get the best price buy ahead of time. I recommend this store on Amazon. Or you can find them here. Here are some of my favorite (lovely) dirndls. Here are some more traditional options. If you buy them in Munich you’kll pay a premium price for cheaper material.Michael's Lederhosen. My Dirndl. Here is a similar one to the blue I'm wearing below.
- A traditional Dirndl goes past your knees and comes in all different colors. The shorter ones are more modern and aren’t as pretty in my opinion. If you’re going to dress up you might as well be traditional.
- There is a tradition about how your tie the ribbon on your Dirndl. Right is for taken, left is for single, center is for virgin, and back is for widow.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You'll most likely be on your feet for hours on end. I always go with these since they usually go with my Dirndl.
- Oktoberfest is extremely safe. They put in safety precautions now more than ever and you will see police walking around. Before you can get into to the festival there are officers checking bags. You also can’t drive anywhere near the grounds and there are cement blocks in place that hinder cars.
- You can get to the festival by train, bus, or walking. If you take take the train you’ll arrive at Munich Hauptbahnhof, put your belongings in lockers, and easily walk 10 minutes (just follow the people dressed up!) to Oktoberfest.
- You can also take the U4 or U5 to Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe which is one of the easier options.
- You can stay in a hotel (€€€€), Airbnb (€€€), hostel (€€), or couch surfing. Best bet is to book in advance to save money. I've seen literal “tents” offered for upwards of 200€. You can also stay outside the city just a little bit to save money. The public transportation is fantastic, easy, and cheap.
- There are 14 main tents and each seats up to 8,500 people. Each one has beer, food, and a band playing. There are also 21 smaller tents.
- Each tent is different in that they are decorated differently and are oknown for different food and atmosphere. Hofbräu is popular with tourists and known for playing more American music, Weizenzelt serves light beer (weiss) instead of dunkel (dark), in Fischer Vroni you can eat smoked fish, Schottenham is popular with young Germans, the locals flock to Augustiner, Ochsenbraterei has ox on a spit, and Schützenzelt is a local favorite. In my opinion, don’t just stay at Hobräu. See another tent and join in on the songs. Even if you don’t know them.
- To make a reservation for a table at a tent you need to do it FAR in advance. I personally have never made a reservation because I go early and during the week. But if you're going on a Saturday in the evening, you might want one.
- Get to know the people at your table. As the night wears on you will be packed more closely together. So make friends and learn the customs.
- If you stand up on a table, it’s custom to chug your beer. Watch out though! In some tents (like Schottenhamel) you can get kicked out for doing it.
- On the weekends and busy nights if you don’t have a table reservation, you will not get to sit down. You can still order beer and experience the atmosphere even if you don’t have a seat. You’ll just be more on the sidelines.
- It’s not just about the tents and beer, the festival grounds are large and have all sorts of games, rides, and food stands.
- Some of my favorite foods to eat are: chicken (melting off the bone and seasoned to perfection), käsespätzle (it’s almost like an extreme mac and cheese but made with potatoes and onions), bratwurst with mustard, pork knuckle, Michael loves the ox sandwich, roasted nuts (especially the sweet pecans, hot and fresh), and a big, soft pretzel.
- There are other tents that are restaurants and will take your order. If you want to sit down with your food or go to a restaurant you will pay a service fee (sometimes up to 5 euros!). For example Michael and I wanted to split half a chicken. Inside it was 13.50€. Outside it was 8.50€. We bought it outside then took it to a table in a beer garden.
- Make sure you price check as you walk the fair grounds. If you’re hankering for a pretzel they can range in price (even for the same size) from 3.50€ up to 5€. So keep an eye out for a better deal.
- Germans cheers by saying “Prost” and look each person in the eye. This stems from the superstition that if you don’t, you’ll have bad sex for seven years!
- There are bathrooms inside the tents and lines can get long. There are bathrooms outside the tents that are usually a short distance away, clean, and no lines. My suggestion is to take shifts. Have someone hold your seat while you go, and vice versa.
- Beer is served in one liter glasses. These glasses are huge and beer maids can carry up to 12! It’s a serious feat to see how many they can hold. I can barely hold two.
- The men bringing food carry a table size platter loaded up with heavy plates of food.
- People who work at Oktoberfest work 16 hours a day for 16 STRAIGHT days and make their way through thousands of people each day, still dressed in traditional clothing. Many of them work out in a gym to prepare for the grueling 5 pound (EACH) glasses they'll carry throughout the tents. During just one shift a waitress will carry 2,250 pounds from the filling stations to the tables!
- A beer usually costs between 9€ and 13€ and don't forget to tip!
- Different beer is sold in different tents. Here's the breakdown: Augustiner: Augustiner-Festhalle, Fischer-Vroni. Paulaner: Armbrustschützenzelt, Winzerer Fähndl, Käfer's Wies'n Schänke. Hofbräu: Hofbräu Festzelt. Spaten-Franziskaner: Marstall, Schottenhamel, Ochsenbraterei/Spatenbräu-Festhalle. Löwenbräu: Schützen-Festzelt, Löwenbräu-Festhalle. Hacker-Pschorr: Hacker-Festzelt, Pschorr-Bräurosl.
- Germany is VERY serious about beer. They have strict regulations about how beer is brewed. The Bavarian Purity Requirement comes from 1516 in which Duke William IV proclaimed that only water, hops, and barley should be used to brew beer. So you know you're getting the best.
- You don't HAVE to drink beer at Oktoberfest. If you're like me, you prefer wine. They offer “Radler” (a mixture of beer and lemonade) and some tents offer wine. Yes, it still comes in a beer glass!
- There is a wine tent! It's called Weinzelt and serves 15 different types of wine. You can also get it at Hofbräu, Schützem, and many of the smaller tents. So if you don't like beer, you can still enjoy Oktoberfest.
- Each year, 7.5 million liters of beer are consumed!
- There is no smoking (thankfully) in the tents.
- You cannot take food or drinks into the tent OR out of the tents.
- Don't be a “beer corpse”, someone that goes overboard during Oktoberfest. The beer is typically stronger and goes to your head fast. So pace yourself. And eat!
- Walk the fair grounds! Yes, the tents are a blast, but the rides, food stalls, and souvenir shops are pretty and you won't want to miss the statue of Bavaria. She's huge, you can't miss her.
- You'll see gingerbread hearts (Wiesenherzen) almost everywhere. Each one has a different message. I have yet to actually eat one since I'm told they don't taste very good. You might hear the word “Wiesen” often, because that's what locals call Oktoberfest.
- Stop to check out the horses bringing in the beer kegs. They are always beautiful, and the kegs are decorated with hops and flowers. It's a great photo op.
- Make sure to learn the words to the song “Ein Prosit” before going. You'll be singing it often. You can also learn some German words: Please: Bitte, Thank you: Danke schön, Cheers: Prost, Stein of beer: ein maß (mass).
- At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the mayor of Munich kicks off the celebration by officially tapping the first beer barrel and shouting to the crowd, “O'zapft is!” meaning, “It is tapped!”
- The first Oktoberfest was held on Oct. 12, 1810, and was originally in honor of the wedding between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, the future King Ludwig I, and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
- Bring cash! You can't pay for beer with credit cards and ATM lines are long. I suggest bringing between 50- 75 euros a day.
- Beer is served from 10am to 10:30pm. The grounds stay open a bit after that but once the beer stops flowing, most leave.
- Tents will close if they are at capacity. Tables inside are reserved in shifts: morning, afternoon, and evening. But about 1/3rd to half the tent is left open for those milling in without a reservation. Meaning, it's not necessary to have a reservation at Oktoberfest. Especially if you get inside early enough.
- Backpacks and large bags aren't allowed. I always carry this small cross-body purse.
- Don't forget to make time to see Munich! It's a stunning city and Germany itself has so much history. I can't even believe the number of people who just go to Oktoberfest and don't see things like Marienplatz or the English gardens. Here's a full (quick!) guide to Munich.
- Take it in. It's such a memorable experience that you won't forget. So stop and look at the crowds, at everyone singing, and clinking their glasses.
- Don't forget to be TOTALLY prepared and read My Ultimate Guide to Oktoberfest!
Oktoberfest is one of the most fun experiences. Great beer, food, people, and everyone is out celebrating, singing, dancing, and having fun. I always find myself feeling like Oktoberfest is a bit surreal. People from all over the world celebrating together in such a colassal way.
Have a tip for attending Oktoberfest? Let me know below!
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